People who are building their Personal Brand focus on the strengths that are necessary and appealing to attain their desired career goals. And with authenticity to the fore we build a compelling brand that projects both confidence and capability. We have all heard of the saying “An overused strength can become a weakness” and in branding this is something we all need to be very aware of as we communicate our message.
In Australian corporate circles recently there was a very public demonstration of this phenomenon. A successful CEO who had built his brand, and business, around being edgy, controversial, entrepreneurial and flamboyant went too far. On his Facebook site he had posted rants that were racist, sexist and highly offensive both to the business community and public in general. (Note the general public is his client base.)
When someone leaked this to the national media the backlash was instant. No amount of apology or justification could defuse the situation. Several major Sporting clubs dropped the company’s sponsorship, and the CEO resigned and sold off his 50% share before leaving the country to escape the media frenzy.
Ok, this is an extreme example, but it does show that in a world of instant media all branders need to be conscious of the fact that strengths can be taken too far. To keep yourself alert to the nuances of your brand attributes it is helpful to regularly ask yourself the following questions:
1. How will the groups or individuals who are important to me see my actions or comments (in this particular circumstance)? Could they be construed negatively rather than positively?
2. Can I adapt my message to suit this audience or is a “middle of the road” approach best for all?
3. Is there a development issue that I need to work on?
Many clients see branding as pushing the boundaries of personal promotion and they are concerned that they do not overstate reality. Though, in most cases I see clients actually understate their brand strengths!
The group that oversteps the mark is a small percentage, but we can all get the message confused at times if we put too much emphasis on a particular persona or attribute and fail to reflect on our (possible) impact on others. For example:
Confidence can become Arrogance
Humor can become Clown
Organised can become Controlling
Toughness can become Bullying
Generous can become Easy Touch
Richard Anderson, Managing Partner at Point Ahead delivers Personal Brand Strategy for mid-career executives wanting to take control of their careers. Richard works successfully with Australian organizations and individual clients in navigating the emotional and practical challenges of developing an engaging personal brand for both personal and organizational success.